With the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program failing to reach a comprehensive agreement by Monday's deadline, the key parties have decided to extend last year's interim nuclear deal by seven months.
The six countries leading the talks (the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany) and Iran have set the beginning of March as the target date for the big pieces of a nuclear deal to fall into place and a deadline of the beginning of July for the final agreement.
Despite months of diplomatic wrangling, a deal, which would lift crippling sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing some aspects of its nuclear program and allowing greater transparency, remained elusive. On Monday morning, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond broke the news, explaining that while progress had been made, it was "not possible to get an agreement by the [original] deadline."
While it's still unclear what specific gaps remain between the sides, the extension of the nuclear talks wasn't an entirely unexpected outcome. Speaking on state television later in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism about the process, saying an agreement will come "sooner or later."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also weighed in, emphasizing that while a comprehensive deal is out of reach for now, the extension of the interim deal is a good thing.
The world is safer with the interim agreement in place. We want this to work. We want a deal, but not at any cost. We want an agreement that would be good for everybody.
Kerry added that the two sides are "closer to a deal that will make our partners like Israel and the Gulf States safer."
Speaking of Israel and the Gulf States, following the news, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu breathed a sigh of relief on his country's behalf, saying that the “right deal that is needed is to dismantle Iran’s capacity to make atomic bombs and only then dismantle the sanctions. Since that’s not in the offing, this result is better, a lot better.”
That sentiment is likely be echoed privately, if not publicly, not only by a number of Sunni Arab states, but also hawkish Republican legislators who feared a watered-down deal that would grant Iran too many concessions. Nevertheless, as AFP noted, Iran will receive $700 million a month in frozen assets, which was part of the original interim deal. The next round of talks will officially resume next month.